Boeing tests space taxi; one of three parachutes does not open

An artist's impression of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew capsule docking at the International Space Station

An artist's impression of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew capsule docking at the International Space Station

This test will prove the spacecraft's abort system can safely lift Boeing Astronaut Chris Ferguson and the NASA Commercial Crew astronauts away from a rocket in case of emergency.

The deployment failure happened during a so-called pad abort test of a system created to propel the crew to safety in the event of an emergency, Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said by email. It then activated its abort engines, which helped push the Starliner and its service module to a safe distance away from the launcher rocket.

For its next test, Boeing plans to launch a Starliner to the International Space Station next month, without a crew. Boeing also is shooting for an early 2020 launch of astronauts to the space station.

Boeing cleared a key milestone for launching NASA astronauts on its CST-100 Starliner space taxi today by executing an end-to-end test of its rocket-powered launch abort system - a test that did what it needed to do even though one of the craft's three parachutes didn't open.

SpaceX - NASA's other commercial crew partner - successfully launched a Dragon capsule to the space station in March. The entire flight lasted one-and-a-half minutes.

USAF X-37B Plane Comes Home After Record 2+ Years in Space
On Sunday, the Air Force space plane safely landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida at 3:51 a.m. In its Sunday press release, the Air Force announced it was preparing to launch the sixth X-37B mission in 2020.

NASA in a press release called the test "acceptable" and echoed what Boeing said in its statement. The launch for that test is set for December 17 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Boeing is using a ground landing. SpaceX's crew capsule splashes down in the Atlantic, like NASA's old Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules. The vessel is being constructed under NASA's Commercial Crew program; this test is created to make sure that Startliner's systems will function properly both together and separately.

This is the same procedure that would be triggered during a real, crewed launch if there were any risk to astronauts on board prior to launch.

Private companies - SpaceX included - have been shipping cargo to the space station since 2012.

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